Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Magazines, Travel, and Middlebrow Culture: Canadian Periodicals in English and French, 1925-1960

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Magazines, Travel, and Middlebrow Culture: Canadian Periodicals in English and French, 1925-1960

Article excerpt

Literature, arts and criticism Faye Hammill and Michelle Smith, Magazines, Travel, and Middlebrow Culture: Canadian Periodicals in English and French, 1925-1960 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015), 212 pp. Cased. £75. ISBN 978-1-7813-8140-3.

This is a well-researched and serious book, though its primary appeal lies in the magical word 'glamour'. Its glossy cover, copied from Mayfair magazine (1937), and its beautifully reproduced colour illustrations frame this exploration of Canadian mainstream magazines in English and French from the early to mid-twentieth century, presenting them as records of Canadian middlebrow culture. Filled with travel advertisements and fashion features, these magazines are printed spaces where 'high and popular culture meet, and where art encounters consumerism' (p. 10) - one definition of the 'middlebrow' which is at the centre of this study. The book and its accompanying website, www.middlebrowcanada.org, are the products of an AHRC-funded collaborative research project on that topic. Taking popular magazines as their object of inquiry, Hammill and Smith examine Canadian Home Journal, Chatelaine, Maclean's, Mayfair, La Revue Moderne, and La Revue Populaire, investigating the intersection of middlebrow culture with modernism, cosmopolitanism, and nationalism.

The book is organised into four parts: 'Marketplace', 'Pages', 'Fashion', and 'Consumers', and there is an interesting tension between academic interest in print culture and periodical history on the one hand and, on the other, the seductiveness of magazine headlines like 'The Only Paris' or 'Fashions Right for Flight' offering glimpses of the fantasies and aspirations of an earlier generation. The first chapter focuses on circulation figures and readerships of these magazines, describing their different agendas and varying fortunes. It also explores the significance of advertising, particularly travel advertisements, and the connections forged between travel, fashion, and shopping. …

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